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Best non-fiction book

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#1 Rosepickles

Posted 14 January 2013 - 01:23 PM

Hi all, would love recommendations for any good non-fiction books you have read lately or whenever really. Im not really into biography or autobiography type books, more interesting reads on history, politics, philosophy or just any interesting topic really. I am not very well read outside of the fiction world, but read Guns, Germs and Steel last year and enjoyed being educated (on something outside of my uni work) whilst i read. I guess i would prefer books that are not too difficult to read, i have to read academic articles all the time so something a little entertaining would be nice original.gif    

#2 Sugared

Posted 14 January 2013 - 01:30 PM

At Home by Bill Bryson is an interesting read original.gif

#3 peckingbird

Posted 14 January 2013 - 01:34 PM

I'm reading a biography about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a theologian and dissident anti-Nazi, with associations with the Resistance movement and was also involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler.

He was living in the USA during the war but made the decision to return to Germany because he felt morally obliged to continue the fight against the holocaust even though it meant leaving the security of the US and putting his life at risk by returning to Germany.

Very interesting read, and as I have just returned from a trip to Europe, where I visited Dachau, it is very relevant for me at the moment.

ETA:  Ergh, should have read your post properly, I'm an idiot.  You've said you're not into biographies, duh.  Sorry.  It's still a really interesting read!

Edited by peckingbird, 14 January 2013 - 01:36 PM.

#4 Velocinag

Posted 14 January 2013 - 01:36 PM

Most of the non fiction books I read are sports related or autobiographies but I really enjoyed The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.

#5 Beanbag Warrior

Posted 14 January 2013 - 01:41 PM

I know you said you're not really into these genres, but I loathe nonfiction, so they're the best I have to offer.

If you're into Dr Who, "A Writer's Tale" documents the progression of emails of ideas etc between the author and Russel T Davies during the 2nd last season of David Tennant's run.  It's a highly enjoyable read.

I also enjoy the two Stephen Fry Autobiographies I've read - Moab is my Washpot and Fry Chronicles.  It's an interesting look into addiction and his bipolarness

Edited by Soprano-Cat, 14 January 2013 - 01:47 PM.

#6 Rosepickles

Posted 14 January 2013 - 01:45 PM

Thanks all, i know i said no bio types but still interested in the really good ones. Its more that i dont like the sports star and celeb ones so much.
Am excited as i have a book store voucher to spend and i only usually go to the library so want to get something good!

#7 nellista

Posted 14 January 2013 - 01:49 PM

As Sugared mentioned, At Home by Bill Bryson, would tickle your history bone.

I listened to the audiobooks, and it was so good!  He read it himself and some of the interesting stuff he talks about had me stopping it and thinking back over it again..... fully intend to read the book in the future.

The author of Guns, Germs and steel also has a couple of other books out, and another coming out soon.

I am reading an advance copy of a book called Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson, and it is about the development of kitchen tools over time.  Very interesting and she has a writing style similar to Bill Bryson in a way, almost conversational.

#8 FiveAus

Posted 14 January 2013 - 01:51 PM

The Emperor of All Maladies is a good read, it's the history of cancer and its treatments in a very readable version.

Best bio I have read, by a country mile, is Michael Caines "What's it all about?"
I have read lots of bios from people of various walks of life, and a lot of them unknown to the general public, but this one stands out above all the others, as being a ripping good read.

Edited by FiveAus, 14 January 2013 - 01:52 PM.

#9 Tomahawk

Posted 14 January 2013 - 01:53 PM

History on Trial : My Day in Court with David Irving by Deborah E. Lipstadt

(Not sure if you know but David Irving is a Holocaust denier, sorry if you do)

I highly recommend it.

#10 Chicky whicky

Posted 14 January 2013 - 01:54 PM

A short history of nearly everything by Bill Bryson. Really good.

#11 nellista

Posted 14 January 2013 - 02:06 PM

Mary Roach is another good author.
I have listened to Stiff: The History of Human Cadavers.  Which I know sounds really gross, but it was very thought provoking.  Yes bits of it are gruesome, but I am in the medical field, so thats fine with me.  It talks about all sorts of stuff like crash investigations (car and plane), medical testing, and funreal arrangements.  She has a few other books too.

Another I just thought of is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  The cell culture line used the most in medical research is the He-La cell culture, and it was a culture of cervical cancer cells from Henrietta Lacks who died int he 1950s.  Covers medical ethics and the impact on the family to this very day.

The Ghost Map by Stephen Johnson
THis is about the identification of cholera as a water born disease.  How one man tracked one outbreak down to one water pump in central london.

The Great Influenza by John M Barry.  About the flu outbreak in 1918.  Sobering and scary.  Also covers a lot of development of the history of medicine.

Gosh I am a nerd..... ....

I also read other stuff!  original.gif

#12 peckingbird

Posted 14 January 2013 - 02:18 PM

Wow, you guys have just given me about ten new options for my reading list - thanks!!

#13 Fire_fly

Posted 14 January 2013 - 02:30 PM

The man who mistook his wife for a hat. By oliver sacks
Explains the book better than I could. I found it fascinating.

#14 NunSoFeral

Posted 14 January 2013 - 02:33 PM

My favorites are :

One Crowded Hour - Bio of Neil Davis, Combat cameraman.
Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer - a Mount Everest Encounter
The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiesson & also The Cloud Forest - just beautiful books.
The Hospital By the River - Catherine Hamlin. Awesome.
The Flame trees of Thika - Elspeth Huxley
Out of Africa -Karen von Blixen-something? - a memoir. Probably doesn't date too well , but given the era it is a great snapshot of privilege and hardship and the translation is pretty good IMO.
Anything by Dervla Murphy
Another one called "Blessings of a good thick skirt" - about female adventurers in late 19th and early 20th century.


Edited by gettheetoanunnery, 14 January 2013 - 02:40 PM.

#15 NunSoFeral

Posted 14 January 2013 - 02:36 PM

QUOTE (Fire_fly @ 14/01/2013, 02:30 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The man who mistook his wife for a hat. By oliver sacks
Explains the book better than I could. I found it fascinating.

Oooooh I forgot this one - it was excellent.

Another of his about music was great, too.

Also "The Brain that changes itself" by Norman Doidge. Loved this.

#16 bubmakes3

Posted 14 January 2013 - 02:56 PM

Brother Number One – A Political Biography of Pol Pot
David P Chandler
I read this about 12 years ago before travelling to Cambodia and it was a fascinating/shocking and eye opening  read – I had no idea the full scale of the Cambodian storey surrounding the Khmer Rouge, Vietnam war etc etc – that this happened in such recent times with the world barely noticing shocked me. I have re-read it a few times now.

Also another fave –
The Trouser People
Andrew Marshall
I read this prior to travelling to Myanmar. It’s a really interesting read – here is the blurb from Amazon…
Andrew Marshall has written an unforgettable adventure story, the wry account of two journeys into the untraveled heart of Burma. Part travelogue, part history, part reportage, The Trouser People recounts the story of George Scott, the eccentric British explorer, photographer, adventurer, and later Colonial Administrator of Burma, who introduced the Empire's best game (soccer!) to Burmese natives and to the forbidden Wa state of head-hunters, who were similarly enthusiastic about it. The second, contrasting journey is Marshall's own, taking the same dangerous path one hundred years later in a country now devastated by colonial incompetence, war, and totalitarianism. Wonderfully observed, mordantly funny, and skilfully recounted, this is journalistic travel writing at its best.

#17 Bernard Woolley

Posted 14 January 2013 - 03:02 PM

Malcolm Gladwell is more or less a nonfiction genre of his own. 'Blink' is about thinking, 'Outliers' is about human achievement, etc...

A random from my bookshelves is 'The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio'. Its about being raised by a mother who very successfully used to enter all those '25 words or less' competitions. You'd probably have to get it ordered in or try Book Depository...

#18 9ferals

Posted 14 January 2013 - 03:11 PM

Anything by Michael Pollan is pretty interesting - good stuff about the industrialisation of our food industries.

And I second books by Oliver Sacks - my favourite would be "An anthropologist from Mars".

I've also just reread a favourite about the history of the alphabet by John Mann. I can't remember the title - I think it is something like AlphaBeta.

#19 FiveAus

Posted 14 January 2013 - 03:22 PM

There are also the oldies but goodies such as James Herriot and Gerald Durrell, if you like animal/naturalist/vet type stuff.

#20 Al.Packer

Posted 14 January 2013 - 03:28 PM

I've just finished yesterday How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran, loved it, laugh out loud funny in parts, even if I disagreed with her on some issues. Have now got Moranthology on order.

Have also recently finished They **** You Up by Oliver James and The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson. Before that was The Happiness Project from Gretchen Rubin.

#21 Magnus

Posted 14 January 2013 - 03:33 PM

'Smile or Die' by Barbara Ehrenreich or her other books.

I love just browsing the travel section for light non-fiction reading. I find it's great when you need something interesting, but not too in-depth. The Shadw of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron is my favourite. A beautiful, evocative writer.

Tim Flannery writes very well and makes science accessible to a broad audience.

I also like the history section for light reading, so long as you stick to social histories that mostly describe what it was like to live in a particular era and how everyday people lived. You just have to make sure you get one of those kinds and not the really long, turgid volumes that just detail event after event for hundreds of years. I liked Bedlam by Catharine Arnold, which is a history of mental institutions in Britain and Abandoned Women by Lucy Frost which is about the lives of convict women in Tasmania.

Case studies of particular places are great (either in the travel or politics sections). Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Sukhetu Metha is good and so is Peter Hessler's Country Driving: Three Journeys Across a Changing China and Neil MacFarquhar's The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday. These three are a little heavier than my previous recs, but they're long format journalism, rather than being academic.

Maria Tumarkin's books are good too, and Alice Pung's, but these are more biographic.

#22 Guest_Amy Ramekin_*

Posted 14 January 2013 - 03:56 PM

Two of my favourites are 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' by Michale Pollan, and 'The Brain That Changes Itself' by Norman Doidge, about the ethics of what we eat, and brain plasticity, respectively.

#23 gabbigirl

Posted 14 January 2013 - 04:04 PM

So many of my favourite authors are here..Oliver sacks, Michael pollan, Barbara E - her book 'nickel and dimed'is a great read about minimum wage in the USA.
For a fun and informal look at the GFC boomerang by Michael Lewis is a good read.


I am off to reserve a bunch of other suggestions.

#24 Bunsen the feral

Posted 14 January 2013 - 04:21 PM

Just read Anna Funders Stasiland which is about peoples experiences in East Germany before the wall came down - fascinating and heartbreaking.

#25 WibbleWobble

Posted 14 January 2013 - 04:31 PM

Another vote for Oliver Sacks, fascinating reading, also The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.

If you like books more along a political line, Dark Victory by David Marr would have to be one of my favourites.

David Marr and Marian Wilkinson, two of the country's most accomplished investigative journalists, burrow deep into the ways of the Howard government. They reveal the secret history of the campaign against boat people that began with the Tampa and ended ten extraordinary weeks later with the Australian people giving John Howard his third, most daring election victory.

Dark Victory is a thrilling and provocative account of events that shattered many of the myths Australia had about itself and changed profoundly how Australia is seen in the eyes of the world. It is also a potent reminder of the fleeting nature of truth in politics.

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